This is a Good Time to Experiment!

A coach sitting with his athlete post ironman race
April 22, 2020

Simon Butterworth


If there ever was a time to do some experimenting with your training or other aspects of the multisport life this is it. The idea is not new and you almost certainly see suggestions like this at the end of the season, like these recommendations from my D3 colleague Alison Freeman.    

Following are some of my thoughts on things you can experiment with since our race season is pending.  Some are things you've been advised (or should have been) to never tinker with during spring training/or this extended off-season. If you find success with the ideas below, they can be carried into the race season.

1. Work on run formD3 U. and the D3 YouTube channel both have plenty of good advice on form and drills to help you improve your running.  Identify one or two things that you can improve, then, focus on one thing at a time.  

2. Run/Walk routine:  A favorite of mine but something hard for many to get their heads around is developing a run/walk routine for training and racing.  I covered this topic in a prior article and shared strategies and pace charts for an effective approach to this routine.  You can do some testing to see how well this might work.  Next time you do a Threshold test include some short, 15 second walk breaks.  See if that gets you a better negative split.

3. On the same topic, make one workout a week a speed walk:  Being able to walk fast is not something that will happen, you need to work on it.  

4. Cycling form:  You are probably spending more time indoors, and that is a great place to work on this.  If your cadence tends to be slow, make one workout a week an experiment.  After a warmup ride at the same power at your normal cadence for 5-10 min. then 10% higher.  Your HR is most likely going to be higher at the higher cadence.  Do this over 2-3 weeks to see if that difference diminishes.  It is likely to always be a bit higher but if not excessively, it could be your new race cadence.

5. Cleat position:  This is not something to play with during the race season and the best place is again indoors.  Here is an article that has prompted me to experiment with midfoot cleat position.  Moving the cleat to the midfoot is not something for those with no construction skills but there are easy ways to make less radical changes to the cleat position.  If midfoot really interests you email me to discuss.  

6. Diet – nutrition:  Again, not something you should probably experiment with in race season but certainly OK right now.  This is personally my big thing at the moment and here is some more about that.

Plant Based Diet

The diet idea actually started before the COVID-19 pandemic.  

When I got home from the Ironman World Championships in Kona last year I headed to a new cardiologist for my first check-up with him.  I got a bit of an unwelcome surprise; plaque has increased to a point where something in my diet had to change and/or I had to get on statins.  

My doc suggested I educate myself a little further by watching The Game Changers and another documentary Forks Over Knives (with Rip Esselstyn’s father and doctor Caldwell), and reading The Seven-Day Rescue Diet (Rip Esselstyn).  The message in the Game Changers is that you don’t need meat to be an endurance athlete, Olympian, or the world’s strongest man.  It is a great thing to watch as you ride/run indoors.  I came away convinced the diet would work but concerned that I could make the change after 70+ years of being a meat-eater.  Statins were even less appealing so in December I went cold turkey (pun intended). 

I have not managed to get extremely creative with DIY recipes.  Ingrid, my wife, has done better than I have and is producing some great “stews” and soups found in the book Coach Mike referenced earlier this year Shalane Flanagan’s “Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow” as well as the Esselstyn book. Looking for a simpler solution I found a great family of pre-cooked foods from Loma Lynda, which is available on Amazon and there are lots of others out there in places like Whole Foods.  

The November check-up also showed that my cholesterol was much the same as it has been for the past 10+ years, above what is now considered good, but not terrible (my interpretation).  The total was 255 with a lot of that being the good cholesterol.  In February, I got a follow-up test after two months of the Plant diet, and its down to 180!  Still a bit high for the doc’s liking but obviously a great improvement.  Two weeks ago I started a statin to see what that does to my cholesterol and if it causes any side effects.  The big one is muscle weakness and/or pain.  So far so good on the latter.    

I am not rushing out for a blood test for a few weeks for obvious reasons. But, I sure hope my ideas get you thinking of some things that could help you right now, provide a challenge while we wait for our season to begin.

Coach Simon Butterworth  works with athletes to develop both short term and long term objectives that work well within the context of the other things they have going on in their life. He encourages them to ask questions, look for clarification and to challenge them where appropriate.

He holds credentials from:

  • USAT Certified Coach
  • USMS Swim Coach
  • FIST Certified Bike Fitter
  • Training Peaks Certified Coach

Coach Simon Butterworth has an experienced philosophy about coaching.  The key ingredients in a good coach/athlete relationship are regular and open communication, mutual respect, and keeping it fun for the athlete and their family.  His training programs are developed with those ideas at the forefront. He works with athletes to develop both short-term and long-term objectives that work well within the context of the other things they have going on in their life.

Coach Simon is a 2X World Ironman Champion and has 16 Ironman World Championships races to his credit. He has finihsed on the podium 7x.  He is a USAT Certified Coach, USMS Swim Coach, FIST Certified Bike Fitter and Training Peaks Certified Coach.

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